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Thread: Vacuum Casting help please.

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2022
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    4

    Default Vacuum Casting help please.

    Hi everyone.
    I have been having terrible problems vacuum casting silver. Melting with an electric melting furnace and graphite crucibles
    It seems to be impossible to vacuum cast silver without some form of tiny gas porosity. This porosity only shows itself after polishing and ultrasonic cleaning the rings as dozens and dozens of tiny pits.

    I have some very basic casting questions which hopefully experienced people my know.

    1. Does it matter how you pour the melted metal ? For instance a slow steady pour or tip it in as fast as possible.

    2. Should I leave the casting machine vacuum pressure on after the pour whilst the can and molten metal cool slightly, or turn of the vacuum immediately after pouring the metal into the can.

    3. Do graphite crucibles oxidize after only a few uses ( 3 to 5 ) and therefore the crucible may cause contamination of the melting silver.

    4. Should I use borax in the graphite crucible.

    5. I melt and then cast at between 1020 and 1040 celsius. Anything outside this range causes worse porosity.

    6. I remove the can from the kiln after 8 hours and the temperature I remove the can is 550 celsius although with a laser thermoter pointed inside the can the temperature would then be 400 approx.

    7. I allow 15mins to cool before I quench the can.

    8. I have been using almost always brand new grain so old scrap is not a factor in my process.

    9. I am using standard injection wax patterns, 3d printed wax is not a factor.

    If anyone can see any problems here which im missing or can answer some of the basic questions I would be delighted with any help.

    Best Wishes
    David

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Manchester UK
    Posts
    904

    Default

    Hi David,

    Whats your burn out procedure is it correct for the investment. porosity can be from over heating the metal .

    1. Not really I use a system that just drops the metal in with gravity.

    2. I do for a minute or so

    3.you should brush them out with a stiff brush ceramic crucibles are better if you can get them for your melter

    4. I don't, this can cause porosity and breakdown the crucibles but others may tell you different

    5.depnds what metal but sounds ok for sterling silver

    6. you need to check you are following a proper burnout cycle that's recommended for your investment powder and your kiln is somewhere near the temps you are using

    7. sounds ok, red gold I dunk quicker it brings the copper out.

    8.this is the way when trouble shooting

    9. Also good, resins can add another level of complication.

    cheers Joe

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2022
    Posts
    4

    Default

    Thank you for the reply Joe most appreciated.

    Im using protocast investment and they recommend a 12 hour burnout. But I had to halve it. Its just not feasible to run a kiln for 12 hours for small 2.5 inch cans.

    I used a graphite lid for the graphite crucible today in an attempt to further protect the silver from absorbing oxygen in the electric melter.

    Today I lowered the casting temperature of the sterling silver to 1015.

    The inside temp of the can was 450 C the outside was 510C determined by laser thermometer.

    I released the vacuum straight away after it filled.

    Let the can sit and cool 5 mins before quench as its only a small 2.5 inch can. let it cool in a closed pot avoid too much oxygen.

    The result is as bad as ever. Hundreds of tiny dentric pores just under the surface of the silver.

    In the past ive tried

    borax / no borax.

    Pouring trough a flame to protect from oxygen.

    Thicker sprues.

    Ive been up and down the temperature scales for cans and melting temps.

    Ive tried thicker investment ratios and so thin that they have burst.

    Ive tried wax webbing to increase the pull of the vacuum.

    Ive tried different investment powders and different burnout cycles.

    Ive put vents onto the far end of the sprue.

    Nothing has worked so far.

    Ill try making the investment a bit thicker and adjust the burnout again but im running out of ideas after that.

    Ill try 1h ramp to 230C, hold at 230 C for 1.5h. 2h ramp to 730C. Hold at 730C for 2h. 30m climb down to casting temp 600C hold for 1h.

    This I hope gives with working time an actual internal can temp of 450.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Manchester UK
    Posts
    904

    Default

    Its frustrating I know. I run 12 hours for 3"x3" flasks for burnout. If you want to send me some of your metal and a wax I will cast it with my setup and send it all back to you back to compare. I can give you all the specs and temps I use then you will have a base line to work from if that helps ? PM me.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2022
    Posts
    4

    Default

    Thanks Joe,
    Thats a very nice offer Im going to try a few last things here. One thing I have noticed is the date printed on the bottom of the investment powder is 1/3/22. So if that is the expiry date then the tools company I have been buying from has been shipping expired investment to me.
    Could expired investment be the cause of all these tiny porosity holes?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Manchester UK
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    Investment is hygroscopic it absorbs water this can effect it if its been left open for ages. But if its been sealed up I dont think it will effect things so much but its not going to help been out of date I guess. I have had bad bags of investment though. the things I found effected porosity for me was using borax and metal/flask to hot but the only way to do it is keep ruling things out one by one .once you get the formula stick with it It can be frustrating.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2022
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    Hi Folks,
    Quick update incase it becomes helpful for anyone else in the future. Thanks Joe for your help.
    I increased the burnout time.
    Increased the diameter of the base of the tree.
    Moved the melting furnace right beside the vacuum casting machine to allow for quicker pour.
    Raised the can position height up in the kiln to allow greater air flow.
    Near the end of the burnout I turn the can over to allow any trapped gas pockets to escape.
    I held the can for longer at the casting temperature 2 hours in total at 430 C before pouring.
    Used a lower can temp of 430 C and increased the silver temp to 1038 C.
    Plasticast investment.
    I straight away release the vacuum pressure after pouring. I also throw a bit of borax onto the red hot casting button to stop it absorbing more air while cooling after the pour. I allow for as small a button as possible.
    Quench after 10 mins.
    But the most effective thing I did was add an extra feeder sprue to each ring. In a can where 1 ring did not have an extra feed sprue that ring would not be as good as all others. It wouldnt fill as good and would have tiny porosity holes under microscope.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Central London
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    Thanks for the feedback, Dennis.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2022
    Posts
    2

    Default

    Hi Blue leaf.
    Sorry to read you are having a frustrating time of the casting. there are so many areas to look at when having problems. Things sneak in and you don't know it .

    So many areas to look at as to what can be the problem, I read your post and it sounds as if most areas of your casting is not to bad as far as your procedures, a few adjustments here and there is always Ok to change just a bit to get better results..
    Now to where I think you should be taking a closer look. Josef1 made a comment in one post. Porosity can be from over heating the metal.. Lights go on when I hear that statement.
    I had porosity in my casting, mostly in brass and mostly in larger items .. This is one area that needs to be considered , are the items rather thick and large or thin and small, you will quite possibly need different casting temps for your casting flasks for different size items. Mine for brass vary, high temp thin items the flasks are 720oC, larger items are 550oC and the really thick large items are as low as 290oC

    Next the temperatures. These could all be very very wrong. Don't trust any of the furnace dials, melt pot dials. And on no way expect the lazer Thermometer is a good thing to check items for casting as these can be 100s of degrees out. as I discovered.
    Many videos I have seen make all importance on the precise weight and measuring of all the water and investment for this type of casting and one has to be exact, but when it comes to furnace temp and metal pouring temp it is all left up to chance. If the dial on the furnace or melt pot shows this it must be right , unfortunately, certainly may not be the case.
    The first procedure in any foundry that is about to pour their moulds, is a worker is there to probe the alloy to check temperature. Then check again. and not untill the temp drops to what is required for their alloy, then they pour. This I took close note of years ago and have befitted from. And purchased a good temperature probe with digital readout.
    Correct pouring temperature for the alloy we are using is vital. In our case with investment casting, Furnace temp and alloy melting temp is important.

    Find a company that supplies good quality temperature testing probes. Go there and speak with them and purchase a good quality probe. this will save you the guess work on most areas of the casting, It may not be dead perfect, but far better than the dials on the furnace or melt pot and you can have more faith in it. I have tested all my 3 furnaces, up to high temperatures and compared the probe temp with the dial on the furnace. Pay One off with the other to see what the furnace really was. I also check the temp in each and every melt before I pour the flask. You can be quite amazed how wrong the mini melt furnace readout can be. One of mine was out by as much as 150oC another over by 80oC My new furnace was also given the test with the temp probe before it was used for a burnout the results were quite good but still out be 25oC up in the higher temps so had to adjust the program to suit. Investment has its temp limits.
    Hope this helps , or has you making some important checks in this area of the casting as to whether the temps are correct. Good Luck Cheers Johncast Australia.

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